Mumia supporters at One Art in Philadelphia, April 23, 2023. (WW Photo: Joe Piette)

Mumia Abu-Jamal’s 69th birthday was celebrated in his hometown of Philadelphia on April 23, with a march starting at 52nd and Market streets. Participants came from Philadelphia, New York, Boston and New Jersey. The march through the West Philadelphia community received a positive response from people on the street.

Mumia has been a political prisoner in Pennsylvania for 41 years — 28 on death row. He is a veteran Philadelphia Black Panther, a radical radio journalist, a grandfather and a foremost revolutionary thinker and writer. Mumia is a loving movement elder, who uplifts struggles worldwide with his powerful voice and writings. At 15 he was a Black Panther newspaper journalist, and later he was an award-winning Philadelphia radio journalist.

Mumia had been appealing his conviction. Hearings involving discovery of suppression of important exculpatory evidence, including the racist exclusion of Black jurors in his original trial and key witnesses having been paid to testify for the prosecution, were held before Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge Lucretia Clemons to consider the recently released evidence as grounds for a new trial.

However, following in the bloody footsteps of her predecessor, racist hanging-judge Albert Sabo, on March 31 Clemons dismissed Mumia’s appeal petition. His supporters were outraged by the ruling but not surprised. Clemons was previously an attorney with Ballard Spahr, a national firm specializing in business law with a notorious reputation in Philadelphia; and she has been known countrywide as a union buster. That she has not strayed one millimeter from the party line should be considered in this context.

As journalist Linn Washington Jr. has warned so many times: “The fact that state and federal judges have consistently upheld Abu-Jamal’s conviction is cited as solid confirmation of his guilt. Brushed aside is the fact that judges have upheld Abu-Jamal’s conviction by skirting established legal procedure (precedence), creating new legal standards that undercut Abu-Jamal’s claims and rejecting newly discovered evidence of improprieties by police, prosecutors and even judges.” (WHYY, Dec. 9, 2022)

Rally at One Art Community Center

The march was followed by a gathering at West Philadelphia based One Art Community Center at 1431-39 North 52nd St. Gabe Bryant with the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home chaired the event, which included a talk from Clarence Thomas, retired leader of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, based in San Francisco. 

Thomas recounted how the ILWU shut down all the West Coast ports demanding Mumia’s release on April 24, 1999, and how the union did it again earlier this year. Thomas noted that Mumia is both a CWA-NABET journalist and a political prisoner who has demonstrated support for unions. 

Chairman Omali Yeshitela, from the Uhuru Movement and an African People’s Socialist Party leader, gave a militant talk denouncing systemic racism and imperialism and explaining how capitalism is “a dying system in a horrible state of crisis.” He was one of four current and former Uhuru officials who were indicted by federal officials April 18 for allegedly interfering in the 2020 presidential election. The outrageous and dangerous indictments claim the group was working on behalf of the Russian government, because they oppose the U.S./NATO war.

Other speakers included Candace McKinley with the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, Keyssh from Decolonize Philly, Theresa Shoatz, Razakhan Shaiheed from Nation Time and Mike Africa Jr. Performers included Cleo, Antonella, New World Warrior and hip hop artists Spiritchild.

Marchers gather outside mural for Mumia, April 23, 2023. (WW Photo: Joe Piette)

The highlight of the celebratory event was definitely the location at One Art Community Center. The center had been carved out of abandoned blocks in West Philadelphia, starting in 2001, to offer a creative space and programming for healing, environmental sustainability, collaboration and growth through arts, education and culture. A mural honoring Mumia Abu-Jamal was put up on an outer wall of the center earlier this year.

Betsey Piette

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Betsey Piette

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